I bet you all thought I was about to go on a diatribe about not drinking for a while?  Well, you’re wrong! (though Pam and I did take the entire month of May “off” from booze)

This involves a side-quest that stemmed from our family’s little backyard camping excursions (read this for background).

In a nutshell: I’ve been baby-stepping the family towards a 4-night getaway into the wilderness, relocating daily by hiking everything we need on our backs… aka “wild” camping.  Since this isn’t camping out of a car, I really don’t have the luxury of packing a big old cooler full of eggs, milk, steaks and beer.  In fact, I barely have enough room for the tent, sleeping bags and a cooking pot or two.  So how to feed yourself with limited space?

  1. Catch your own food… we’re not there yet, nor do I plan to be “there” anytime soon.  I don’t want to give the kids nightmares of using Bullwinkle’s antler to maim Rocky.  Plus (I hate to admit this), I don’t find too much pleasure in killing animals.
  2. Buy pre-packaged MREs or dried meals…  I tried this, and they aren’t spectacular… not spectacular enough for me to pay $5-per-person-per-meal (that’s $60/day for my family) for something that’s mediocre tasting.
  3. Make your own using a dehydrator…

I alluded to making my own in the linked background post above.  So, I found this website, bought a dehydrator, and started making my own dried meals.  Sure, the dehydrator was in the neighborhood of $250, but 5 or 6 full days of hiking and camping oughta cover that expense easily.

Dehydrated mealsPam graciously accepted the challenge to cook and dehydrate our trial meals for our most recent camping trip.  The planned meals were tacos/burritos for lunch, jerked chicken and rice for dinner, and breakfast bread (courtesy of Matsu) for the next morning’s breakfast.  The jerked chicken is shown at left fresh out of the dehydrator.  In the bags are dried taco hamburger bits, dried cheese, leathered (or dried) salsa, and dried jalapenos.

For the most part, you season and cook everything like you are going to eat it right away (you cut the meat into thin slices, of course).  Then slap it on the ol’ dehydrator and let it go for a day or so.  Once dry, bag it up!  The breakfast bread was not dehydrated, though… it was made with fresh dough, rolled around eggs and bacon, baked, and wrapped to remain fresh.

So is it all it was cracked up to be?

After boiling a few quarts of water and adding it to the dehydrated jerked chicken ingredients (you let it sit for about 10 minutes under heat to fully absorb), here’s the presentation:

Jerked Chicken Camping Meal

To be honest, I didn’t conduct the taste test in the field… we tried this out in our house using the camping equipment (hiking stove and titanium pots).  I had every intention of testing this while camping, but a storm got in the way.  This is, by far, the best camping food I’ve had in my entire life.  Period.  It’s not good; it’s delicious.  Though I suppose you have to cook something delicious in the first place for it to taste that way after its been dehydrated and rehydrated again.

I highly recommend going this route.  It blows any store-bought pre-packaged shit out of the water, and it only takes a little extra effort and foreplanning on your part.

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9 Responses to Drying Out

  1. Kevin Laing says:

    Looks Delicious

  2. Mike Winslow says:

    Survival Training at Fairchild: it was jerky (made in camp) and K-rations (Pemmican – a meat flavored “chunk of wood”, and a berry flavored “chunk of wood”) that kept us going for our E&E phase.
    It sounds like you’re on to something good! Consider vacuum bagging – longer shelf life, more compact, no altitude expansion. Freeze Drying maybe? (a vacuum pot in a freezer?)
    Knowing you, I’ll bet you and Pam will experiment to find some really gourmet backpack meals. (by the way, one item that doesn’t dehydrate well is eggplant… it tastes like tree bark!)

    Just think. While your fellow backpackers are eating cold Spam out of the can, you’ll be savoring a REAL meal at a fraction of the commercially priced items.

    Interesting: the history of Jerky – http://www.jerky.com/history-of-jerky

    • Snakeye says:

      I thought about vacuum sealing, but with it well-dried, it’ll be good for a few weeks prior to use.

      Also, the food is better than military MREs because with military MREs it all has that same processed “aftertaste” … it didn’t matter the meal, but shortly after swallowing, any taste that was in your mouth initially quickly converted to that same processed taste no matter what the “Meal #” was on the container. This way is MUCH tastier!

  3. Millie says:

    If you guy get really good at making these meals, you could start a cottage business and sell them to fellow back packers!

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